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It's Just a Phase..
An old friend got in touch the other day. Completely out of the blue. He’d been having a clear out and came across some photographs.
Did you take these?’ his message read, pictures attached of a white boxer dog and a fluffy kitten.
‘Ahhh, yes I replied, that must have been in my photography phase’.
‘What phase are you in now?’ he asked.
It has been almost 10 years since we saw each other last.
I stopped to think.
In my previous blog woMEn, I talked about finding my identity. I realised that the search had brought with it a number of ‘phases.’ Many of these were short term obsessions, discarded as boredom set in or something new came along, while others turned into lifelong passions.
‘It’s funny you should ask’, I told him, as I had recently entered a new phase.
But more of that later.
I began to think back. It seemed I often had a cause, a hobby, a preoccupation. An all-consuming focus that could go from the centre of my universe to my parent’s loft in a matter of weeks. Sometimes phases overlapped, or one would lead on to the next.
If only consistency had replaced variety. I might have achieved the dizzy heights of concert pianist, army general or sell- out stand -up tours by now. Or maybe not. Maybe I am destined for breadth of experience not depth.
I can lay claim to being an ‘award winning photographer’, taking the prize for best landscape in the TNT travel awards 2006, but sadly a free magazine that advised antipodean visitors where to find the cheapest beer in London was the beginning and end of my published accolades.
For as long as I can remember, there has been some Thing.
While still in primary school I dabbled with political activism, drawing up ban the bomb leaflets, in response to America’s attack on Libya. I think this was more in response to threats made against the UK ,overheard on the news rather than support for Colonel Gaddafi. But I was 10, so either way it was weird. Of course, the absence of social media in those days was the reason my campaign never quite took off. Kids like Gretta don’t realise how easy they have it!
By the time I was 14, my attentions were a little more age appropriate, as I entered the ‘James’ phase. Not a boy, but a band. I was devoted. I obsessed over every lyric, each new album and scoured the markets of Manchester for back catalogue vinyl (even though I didn’t actually own a record player). On release of their album Laid, I thought I was unbelievably cool and daring, by wearing a t-shirt with the words ‘Get Laid’ written across the front. It would be several years before I entered the ‘actual getting laid’ phase.
With the James phase came the Doc Martins. I was never into the gothic piercings or heavy eyeliner, which is perhaps as well looking back at the battle I had with my mum when my choice of outfit for a family christening included my beloved Docs. A battle I lost, and still mourn to this day.
The ‘James and Docs’ phase was fairly consistent throughout my teenage years, and into university, with pints of bitter, several extra pounds and the odd dodgy haircut the only newcomers during this time (well, I did get a degree, but I’m not sure that counts as a phase).
On leaving university, my focus was travel, and finding myself infatuated with a kiwi boy, New Zealand became the object of my desires.
Love for the boy failed to launch, but for the country it blossomed. My adopted home for the next 4 years. I returned to England with a kiwi twang, a knowledge of rugby and referring to football as soccer! That was, thankfully, very much a phase.
Fast forward several years, and I entered my military phase. I didn’t actually swear allegiance to queen and country but spent the best part of 10 years working as a civilian physiotherapist on army, navy and marine bases around the country. The jobs often came with accommodation, which meant they also came with a community and an instant social circle. Military life seemed to suit me. I was the unofficial, self-appointed social secretary of the officer’s mess, took part in charity events and attended formal dinners. Such was my immersion, I applied to join the army for real, attending (and passing I may add), the Officer Selection Board at Westbury.
Luckily the army failed to see my potential, and I remained in my pseudo -military role, enjoying all the trappings of a life in uniform, in a non-iron polo shirt and trainers.
Other phases have come and gone over the years. There has been ‘arguing debating on Twitter’, ‘running a business’ and ‘healthcare activism’. Also, triathlon, open water swimming and stand -up comedy. There were mountains and maps, bikes and skis
Having been single for most of my adult life, to my surprise I fell in love. I was hoping this might be more than a phase, but it wasn’t to be, and this now is fondly known as the ‘wine and cheese’ phase!
Which brings me to my most recent phase. Following a very painful and unexpected breakup, I have entered a period of self-discovery, and while this is perhaps the hardest yet, it is also turning out to be one of the best. It is certainly the most varied and is pushing my boundaries.
After what feels like the worst has happened (I know that is far from the truth but my heart is fragile) I somehow have licence to ‘give stuff a go’ uninhibited by the fear of failure.
When your heart is broken, you’re encouraged to be self- indulgent, to strike out, to be a better version of yourself. As long as it’s in the direction of self-improvement, (and distracts you from talking about your ex or dissecting the break-up), people are supportive.
It has only been a matter of weeks, and so far, I’ve lost the relationship weight, and set up a blog, dabbled in some carpentry and taken up the guitar. I have been BMX biking, and sent those drops at the quarry. I’ve made cushion covers and I’m not afraid or ashamed to admit, employed the support of a counsellor.
As soon as COVID allows I’m going to learn to ride a motorbike and head to the coast in my van. I’ve connected with friends both old and new, all who have been supportive in equal measure.
This is undoubtedly my rollercoaster phase, the highs of achievement punctuated by the lows of loss, and as hard as it is, no matter how much I want to get off, my knuckles are white but I’m hanging on. Telling myself, it’s just a phase